Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Breaking down in the middle of the road can turn your day around.

Today, my life felt like a Zen Short of sorts.

When I left work, I was cranky and annoyed and frazzled. It hadn't been a feel-good day. And I was jetting out early to take Kai to the pediatrician—for shots. I needed to take the Escape, typically Jon's vehicle—a shift in plans that had prompted a hissy fit (mine) over mud-caked cupholders, fast food wrappers and abandoned softball snacks (which, this morning, I angrily referred to as "old nuts"). The car also contained toys, preschool papers, a college diploma (not mine) and two sets of skis that someone who was a small child in the 1960s must have worn. I have no idea of their origin.

Before work, I had removed all of these things from the car and tossed them onto the mudroom floor. I rinsed out the cup holder. So as I was pulling out of the parking lot of my employer, the Escape was uncluttered if not clean. It was all good. Turns out, not so much.

About halfway to Kai's school, the radio stopped working. And then started working again. The dash went blank and then flickered back on before all "computer" displays disappeared for good. I started feeling anxious, wondering if I should bail on the kid pickup, feeling lucky that Kai wasn't in the car already. I kept going, pulling into the Hannaford-plaza turning lane to get off the busy road. I glided to a stop. For good. The car was dead.

    As for as car breakdowns go, my today's Escape escapade was charmed.

My first response: gratitude. The old Escape had chosen this relatively safe place to throw in the towel; I was by myself. I called the pediatrician and cancelled the appointment. Then I started flipping out. I called Jon and told him I had no idea what to do next (really?) and that I was SO hot (what?) He told me to calm the f*ck down (in much nicer words), call the car insurance and get the hell out of the hot car. So I did. And that's when the magic started happening.

  • The Progressive man dispatched a tow truck.
  • Someone called the police and two officers came out to investigate the the mysteriously abandoned car/direct traffic/get the car the hell out of the middle of turning lane. They directed me to get back behind the wheel and put the car in neutral and then they pushed me into the Burger King parking lot. 
  • Since my car was still sort of blocking a driveway, Officer Jamie stuck by and told me amusing stories about his day, then invited me to sit in his air-conditioned car. He offered to clear off his front seat so I wouldn't look like a criminal in the back. I declined and offered to get him an iced coffee at Burger King. He declined.
  • I got my own iced coffee—with real cream because didn't I deserve that?—and parked myself on the curb with the beverage. I posted pictures of my broken-down car and my calmed-down face on Instagram.
  • Seeing my post, recognizing my location as one near her home, KIMBERLY FREAKING DROVE OVER WITH A LEMONADE POPSICLE. FOR ME. 
  • Blown away by her kindness, I babbled a bunch of nonsense, gave her a hug, snapped her photo (for Instagram!) and vowed to be the kind of incredibly thoughtful person that does things like this much more often.
  • Dave from Handy's arrived. He instructed me to get into his air-conditioned cab. He loaded up my car. He asked me what happened and, when he heard, he diagnosed a bad alternator.
  • Then he drove me and the Escape with the bad alternator to Darren's shop WHERE OUR VAN WAS READY, after having gone in for a routine service this morning. (Which is why I was driving the Escape in the first place.) What? How lucky is that?
  • I switched Jon's softball gear into the Escape—his after-work game was close enough to walk and now he had an awesome excuse to go out after the game and grab a ride home with someone else.
  • I was too late—obviously—to get to Kai's appointment but just in time to get him from school. And with plenty of time to drive out to Jules too.
All of this kindness and serendipity had me feeling downright giddy. Lucky. Happy. The only one who was bummed was Kai. "I wanted to go to the doctor to get shots!" he said, crossing his arms and turning away to process his disappointment. 

"I'm sorry, Kai. Sometimes these things just happen. It's disappointing, I know." 

He turned back to face me. "Mama, can we go to the doctor tomorrow morning?" he asked with a trembling lip. 

"We can try," I said. "Maybe we'll get lucky." 

From a nearby curb, I watched frustrated motorists lined up behind this unoccupied vehicle—mine—that did not turn left, COULD NOT turn left, curse and toss their hands wildly into the air. I tried to wave them past.

I rode in the cab of this truck—and Kai was super jealous.
Dave, the driver, diagnosed the problem as a bad alternator before we even got to the shop.
I was super glad I switched into these shoes—from 3-inch-high sandals—before I left work.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 16 | 5x5 challenge, modified | Time ran out

1 snap:
6:15 pm - When all was sunny.

1 minute: 
Approximately 9:35 p.m.
I am missing the birthday party of a quartet of amazing women (one, among my closest friends), due to miscommunication. And in the midst of realizing my time to make it is running out, I hear a curious chirping.

The cats are confused. And then I see: they are chasing a tiny mouse. She runs through Dempsey's legs. He looks at her, bewildered. She runs into my favorite room, still chirping. Now I look at her, bewildered. I come to my senses. I want to save her but I'm pretty sure it's too late. I look for a broom. Can I open the door? She's in the corner by the stairs, near the credenza. Is she underneath? No. The chirping has stopped. Tina runs into the dining room table. I look for the mouse. I meet Tina's eyes. She licks her lips. The mouse is missing. Her time ran out.

I failed. I feel sick. Sickly sad.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 15 | 5x5 challenge | Terminal illness (airport - don't worry)

5 minutes:
Day traveling again, and it's sparked many observations and questions. Too many to note here, on my phone in the United Express terminal at Newark (Delta a LGA, with its free wifi and comfy seating, would accommodate a longer post).

The area surrounding the BTV airport is lush and green, sparsely populated and beautiful; the area surrounding Newark is not.

Many, many men wearing crisp business suits and carrying conservative business-y bags wear casual packs on their backs (a la Jansport). Tell me business-men-friends: what's in there? Gym clothes and razors? Toothpaste? How does this work?

There is a dearth of acceptable eateries in my Newark Airport terminal. But I am hungry and I order a Greek chicken salad. A waiter serves it to me at a table, where the flatware is plastic. He kindly whispers that I might consider ordering my coffee elsewhere. (Later, I hear another waiter nicely telling a couple who's been staring at the menu situation by the hostess station that, if they have time, they can shuttle to another terminal where there's better stuff to eat.) I dig this honesty.

As I eat my salad, I observe many fellow travelers looking for dinner, hopelessly circling. Those who look most health concerned appear to bypass a proper meal altogether, settling on yogurt. Or fruit. Or coffee and water.

I get a coffee too—from next door, like the server suggested. It is not good but it is hot and caffeinated. I am happy. And I am grateful for Skinny Pancake's egg and cheese sandwich, served on a house-made English muffin, alongside with a rich French roast—at the Burlington International Airport.

5 minute

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 14 | 5x5 Challenge | It's a predictable pattern, at least.

5 Minutes (truly, because blogging this should not have even made it to the top of my list tonight): 

I remember my mom telling me once that my Grandma Mary used to have a hamburger roll spread with jam and a cup of her standard coffee—light with cream—after dinner. It was her dessert and a way to unwind. I'm pretty sure she didn't engage in this relaxing ritual when she was a young mom of five kids, also taking care of her ailing parents down the street. It was probably after she retired. In fact, I can't actually even imagine her taking time for her self, as she was always doing stuff for other people. But apparently she did at some point. I thought of her—of this—tonight, out on the deck, sipping my light coffee, feet up while I watched Jules hit baseballs thrown by Jon and Kai find the soccer ball that soon we'd be kicking around as a family (newly discovered World Cup fever). And I just rested there, for a full five minutes.

I bailed on two of my favorite people tonight—pretty last minute—because I was anxious about preparing for another work trip combined with the fact that Kai-guy never goes to sleep. Oh, sure, he goes through the motions: I read him books, tuck him into bed, scratch his back. He sends me off with a hug and a kiss, to find his "favorite blankie." I bring it up, and he fakes like he's going down. Then it begins: the request to read in our room, or at least his room (he typically sleeps on Julian's top bunk). I set him up with books, ask him to just stay quiet and relax. And he complies—momentarily. Then he's on to rearranging furniture and un-organizing drawers. Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he recites—spoken-word, Beatnik style—song lyrics. "Scooby. Doo-by. Doo. Where. Are. You." Tonight, he unearthed a Batman lanyard and an Akron RubberDucks baseball cap, which he was wearing sideways when I walked in. I placed him back in his bed, turned on the overhead light he'd turned on and flipped on his scrolling-underwater-scape nightlight instead. I walked out of the room and into the one where I am now. Ten minutes.

"Mom? Mom? I can't find Teddy."

I go into his room to help locate the tiny bear, who once sported a Mets jersey and now sleeps naked. He was missing. He being Kai, not Teddy. (But Teddy was still missing, too, at this point.) The little imp had transported himself to the top bunk in Julian's room again. There he was sitting, surrounded by two bears who were bigger than Teddy, but had his same light brown fur. Still, no relation. Teddy was under his knee.

"Teddy is under your knee."

"Oh! There he is!"

"I love you. Good night."

"I loooooove you! Good nii-iiiiight!"

Now I am in here. And he is in there. There, where there is rustling. I'm going to pack for tomorrow and he is going to crash—in 45 minutes or so.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I AM interested in sports...culture.

5 Minutes:
When it comes to breeding sports fans, my parents have a strong batting average: 0.666. It'd be even higher if you got bonus points for creating a kid who ends up majoring in sports management and another who has several close friends on the payroll of a professional baseball team. My siblings are sports fanatics. I, on the other hand, am finding my way to sporting events mostly to be a good mom. So far, both of my kids enjoy playing sports; one REALLY seems into watching, too.

I don't dislike sports or sporting events, but I'm more interested in the people playing them—and also those watching. This afternoon, here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head as I sat in the stands of Centennial Field watching a game between the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Connecticut Tigers:
  • I wonder if hearing Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" whenever he walks makes the Bennie guy (Joe Bennie, of the Lake Monsters) hate—or love—his name?
  • Look at them doing those calisthenics down there—I wonder if the team exercises together all the time. Who leads them through those moves?
  • That player from Santa Cruz (I forget which team): Growing up, was he all about "keeping it weird"?
  • I wonder if the Lake Monsters have a marketing person who writes bios about all the players'  favorite foods and such. 
  • That would be fun. 
  • I think I remember a piece in The New Yorker about the marketing person for the Mets doing this. And people finding that fluffy and strange. Maybe I'm making that up. 
  • Still, that would be a fun job. 
  • I can't believe that Olin has never noticed that I put ketchup—not mustard and relish—on my hotdogs. In the FIFTEEN years we've been together. 
  • Mustard and relish on a dog taste good.
  • I think I would have made a great mascot. Dancing and acting without having to talk or sing. How awesome would that be?
  • How often do seagulls often get hit with baseballs? 
This went on and on... Then we came home and watched a bit of the World Cup. My inquiring mind continued:
  • Why is our goalie dressed like a banana?
  • Does that yellow mean something?
  • Why is their goalie wearing green?
  • I'm confused. 
  • I wonder if that big beard makes our goalie hot. Like warm, not attractive. But he is quite attractive. I wonder what he'd look like without that beard.  
My stream of consciousness represents one who is totally uninformed about soccer. But the comment of one of my kids suggests that we're not doing a great job of informing them about world goings-on (or perhaps they're watching too much Chima). Upon learning that Portugal's goal meant that we had not won, he said, "That's REALLY bad."

"No, it's OK. It's really disappointing, but that's how these things go," I told him.

"But wasn't this the war to see if we keep our country?"

Um... no. But wouldn't that be such a better way? 

5 Snaps: 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 13 | 5x5 Challenge | Today was long and sweet.

5 Minutes:
It was the longest day and it feels it, in a really good way. At solstice (which, I learned from the Farmer's Almanac, occurred at 6:51 am) I was running—about one third of the way done. When I got back, the boys were still asleep and Jon was just pouring his first cup of coffee. We actually got to have a conversation—uninterrupted and not about scheduling. No clue what we actually discussed. The boys woke up and ate breakfast. Jon disappeared upstairs to deal with some laundry (go Olin!), and Jules, Kai and I drew pictures and practiced letters, so, so nicely, for what seemed like a long time.

Then it was summer, full-on. I took the boys to Last Resort Farm to pick berries. When we got there—after a few wrong turns and a 30-minute drive—it was all picked out. But Eugenie, who runs the farm, pointed us toward the kids' field and offered the boys to pick whatever ripe berries they could find. And so we did: Jules intently seeking the the rare red gems and pressing them into my hand, after he'd bitten them in half, to "taste how sweet"; Kai following behind, with a less-precise, more-dramatic picking style. The place was magical. We watched red-winged black birds zip and dip across the sky in some sort of (mating?) chase. We pointed out how the clouds—the kinds kids draw—hung low just above the tops of the long greenhouses. Then we went into the farm stand and bought two of the few remaining pints of the sweetest, reddest pre-picked berries.

When we got home, the next-door neighbor—six, like Jules—had set up a stand to sell lemonade and homemade (AMAZING) donuts. Eventually, a gang of neighborhood kids assembled next door, and then in our backyard, playing on swings and creating scenarios that involved armor and swords. THIS is what summer had always been to me. With Ange and Dan, Jeff and Steve, Missy and Gina. We had bike races. We played GI Joe. We held an Olympics. (Hello, 1984.) We choreographed outdoor performances (most memorable: Billy Joel's "The Longest Time"). We stayed out all day until our moms called us in for dinner.

For dinner, tonight, we packed it all up for the beach. The crowd there was surprisingly sparse—perhaps because it wasn't hot, just warm, and the water was freezing. Its iciness didn't faze Kai a bit, and not really Jules either. But he preferred to stay in the sand, building volcanos and retaining walls for waterways, combing the beach for sea glass. Jules and I hung along the water (bellies full of quinoa salad and cantaloupe), while Jon and Kai went back up for a second course of hot dogs.

We reconvened for one last hurrah at the playground before getting in the car and driving to Archie's for ice cream. Long. Sweet. Today. Let's keep it coming, summer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 12 | 5x5 Challenge | Go for the run.

5 Minutes:
I'm using this post as a palate cleanser—as a way to transition from my overall approach to life from "asshole" to "effective." This finite and optional exercise will ease my fingers into typing what I really should be writing—something compulsory and ill-defined. It knew it'd be a challenging day. That's why I took five minutes this morning to walk through the garden, admiring the yellow flowers that have started to appear on the tomato plants, the tell-tale tops of carrots, the neat row of snap peas. To appreciate where sun intersected with shadows, creating sharp angles, to notice how simple was the swing hanging from the tree—something I never pay attention to when a kid is sitting on it.

I didn't run because I felt like there wasn't time. That might have been a mistake.

Tonight, I totally snapped. The boys suddenly turned starving when it was time for bed. I was too tired to fight it so I made some toast. I topped it with mashed avocado and sprinkled on the tiniest bit of salt. One kid poured himself a glass of milk and got down to it; the other threw himself to the ground and demanded almond butter. I said no, in a not-so-nice way. He peeled himself from the floor and brought it to the table. While the the boys consumed their snacks—one actively and one still in a pre-contemplative stage—I paged through a proposal. I set a timer for the snack deadline. I watched the clock. I became increasingly anxious. The snacking proceeded at a pace slower than the clock but because the pokey kid had moved into active eating, I allowed it to continue. And became more anxious. Teeth-brushing was agony. I raised my voice. I walked them up the stairs. They whined for 3 chapters. I told them it was too late. We started reading. One kid draped his legs over my entire body. I asked him to stop. The other leaned into occupy the little remaining space of my physical being and bonked my head. Hard. I started crying (frustration, not injury) so did he (pure sadness). It broke my heart. What was I doing?

Now they are sleeping and I am counting my missteps. These being the only steps I've taken in 6 days. It's been an exercise free-week. I'm drinking black coffee and pounding salted peanuts. I am basically doing the opposite of what's prescribed in the healthy living program I'm about to propose. Noticing the contradiction seems to only fuel its propagation. But these situations go in cycles. I know this. And, now having finished this reconciliatory post, I will move on to getting shit done, to making it happen.

And, next time, I won't skip the run.

5 Snaps:

 (Sweet card by Scout's Honor Paper